MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 11, 2022: CALENDAR GIRL

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The devil may wear Prada, but Ruth Finley — the spunky powerhouse behind the fashion industry-defining Fashion Calendar (who’s far more angelic than devilish, anyway) — isn’t really one to play favorites when it comes to haute couture. She’s always loved it all: The creativity, the pageantry, the gorgeous clothes. Her decades-long career at the heart of New York City’s fashion scene is the subject of director Christian D. Bruun’s affectionate documentary Calendar Girl.

Finley, who was born in 1920, found her way to fashion early on, when an internship at the New York Herald Tribune facilitated her introduction to powerful fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, who would become her mentor. Quickly recognizing the need for more centralized organization within the expanding industry, Finley launched the Fashion Calendar in the early 1940s. The weekly print publication listing all relevant shows and events quickly became an essential resource for those working in fashion, and Finley became a fixture on the scene.

Simultaneously, she was raising three sons as a single mom, after her first marriage ended in divorce and her beloved second husband died unexpectedly. It was a lot to balance, but she did it well, according to all of the movie’s enthusiastic interviewees, from well-known designers like Diane von Furstenberg to Fashion Calendar colleagues and family members. Finley isn’t presented as perfect — she’s certainly set in her ways, for one thing, long resisting calls to bring the calendar into the internet age — but Bruun showcases her energy, dedication, and accessibility: She was always as eager to help up-and-coming designers as she was the bold-faced names.

After more than 70 years of running the Fashion Calendar, Finley sold her beloved creation to the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014. Bruun uses footage filmed during the end of her time at the helm as a through-line in the documentary, clearly suggesting the end of an era/a changing of the guard in the wider world of fashion, too. But you don’t have to follow runway trends or collect couture to appreciate the story of a smart, passionate, motivated woman who saw an opportunity and ran with it, transforming a whole industry in the process. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Pam Grady: In postwar New York City, Ruth Finley saw a need and filled it, creating the Fashion Calendar that originally kept track of fashion shows and other designer events and grew to encompass that couture Godzilla known as Fashion Week. This amiable documentary follows two tracks: On one, it uses the calendar to spin the history of an industry that came into its own when World War II isolated it from the European fashion houses and has only grown ever larger in the decades since. On the other, it is the story of a woman of indomitable spirit, a single working mother and successful entrepreneur in an era when most of her contemporaries stayed home and raised families. A spark plug even into her 90s as she prepares to sell the business to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the lively, petite woman at the center of this film represents an existence well-lived and the very definition of life goals.

Marilyn Ferdinand During this documentary profile of Ruth Finley, one of her many friends and admirers in the fashion world called her a major disruptor of the industry many years before that term came into popular use. How did this petite, nonagenarian change the face of fashion? By launching an unassuming publication called Fashion Calendar near the start of World War II. Finley worked behind the scenes of the fashion industry as a scheduler of fashion shows in New York City, creating an indispensable bible for designers, publicists, journalists, and others involved in working the runways of the now multibillion-dollar enterprise. Director Christian D. Bruun’s informative film shows us just what Finley’s work entails and how much influence she had in helping fledging designers—many of whom are now icons of the industry—get on the map. I would have liked to have known more about Finley earlier in the film, which is front-loaded with scenes from her work day. But Bruun does get around to discussing her life outside of Fashion Calendar, and what he reveals says volumes about the lot of women in the 20th century, making Finley’s apparently happy life and accomplishments all the more special. I’m not crazy about the film’s title, however recognizable the phrase “calendar girl” may be. Finley deserved to be called a woman.

Nell Minow: In this film, archivist says that last year‘s calendar is garbage but a calendar from decades ago is a valuable artifact. This movie shows us that the documents and stories of the past have value it takes us too long to understand. It recognizes that an unsung heroine for decades deserves to be appreciated for her integrity, her resilience, her vision, and above all the joy she brought to the fashion industry.

Leslie Combemale If you’re looking for someone truly aspirational, both as a professional woman and a woman of advancing age, Ruth Finley is her. She is a force of nature as a woman in business, but is also the altruistic fairy godmother of the fashion industry. I knew nothing of her creation, The Fashion Calendar, otherwise known as ‘The Pink Bible,’ which revolutionized the world of fashion. In the fashion industry the role of women was not only important, decades ago, it was the only place women could become CEOs and hold power positions. What is most striking, though, about Calendar Girl, is that Finley is so incredibly optimistic and joyful, and has always been a positive and altruistic force in what is known to be a cutthroat business. Calendar Girl is a great reminder that no matter how difficult and demoralizing an industry can be, there are always some people showing kindness and doing good work to turn to as role models to make that industry better.

Sherin Nicole In a style very much like sitting at your Nana’s feet, while she shares the tale of how fabulous her life has been, Calendar Girl allows us to walk alongside Ruth Finley. The documentary eschews chronological time, unfurling in a stream of consciousness manner. From inciting incidents to life changing moments, through triumphs and evolving times, this is the behind-the-scenes of the Fashion Calendar and how it and its founder, Finley, shaped fashion week by smoothing out the rough edges.

Jennifer Merin Christian D Bruun’s Calendar Girl documentary chronicles the life, times and 70-year career of fashionista Ruth Finley, the unstoppable and much loved influencer who founded the game-changing Fashion Calendar, an industry essential that tracked and scheduled NYC runway shows and other fashion forward events throughout the year, but especially during Fashion Week. Using archival film clips and current on camera interviews, the documentary follows Finley as she grew her annual Fashion Calendar from mimeographed sheets to a beautifully designed collectable book, from humble beginnings to its position as a must have scheduling tool, to its multi-million dollar sale in 2014 to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the haute-clout organization that influences fashion around the world. Finley’s influence sort of parallels that of the better known Anna Wintour, who’s impact has been measured time and again in highly touted films — both documentary and narrative. In Calendar Girl, at long last, the feisty and fascinating Ruth Finley her due. And, once you get to know her, she’s unforgettable.

Susan Wloszczyna: The documentary Calendar Girl isn’t about pin-ups or models. Instead, it focuses on the life of Ruth Finley, who changed the fashion world as we knew it just by creating a time table for American designers to show off their haute-couture wares at Fashion Week in New York City. For more than seven decades, Ruth Finley held the reigns to a calendar that scheduled every fashion event in New York City each year. She might have been petite, but Finley was a big deal when it came to making sure that designers were given an assigned space on the annual program. Read full review.

Sandie Angulo Chen: Even moviegoers who have no knowledge of haute couture beyond the films Pret a Porter or The Devil Wears Prada will find Calendar Girl an accessible documentary about a woman pioneer in the American fashion industry. Ruth Finley (1920-2018) was not a designer nor a doyenne, she was a hard-working journalist who published the “Pink Bible” of the fashion industry – the complete listing of designer’s showings and events – for more than seven decades. Filled with archival footage and interviews with a who’s who of American fashion (Betsey Johnson, Carolina Herrera, Thom Browne, Nanette Lepore, Joseph Banks, Donna Karan, and more), director-producer Christian D. Bruun’s documentary is a vibrant tribute to Finley’s influence and reputation as a fashion aficionada and a designer whisperer who inspired confidence with her enthusiasm and encouragement for all designers, whether they were household names or recent design-school graduates.

Loren King Christian D. Brunn’s Calendar Girl is part of the fashion documentary tradition that includes Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, The September Issue and Unzipped, among many others. It’s tangentially about fashion; what makes it so compelling and important is its true subject, Ruth Finley. Read full review.

Cate Marquis A delightful film about a woman whose name may not be as familiar as that of Anna Wintour or Diane von Furstenberg but whose publication, the Fashion Calendar, helped shape and organize the American fashion industry. An energetic dynamo in her 90s, Ruth Finley might have been tiny but she was a giant in the fashion industry. This documentary tells the impressive story, on the personal and professional level, of the beloved inventor of the Fashion Calendar. Her Fashion Calendar was essentially a listing service that organized fashion shows into straight-forward format, with Ruth setting when and where fashions shows took place in a fair, democratic way, and then publishing that information in an easily accessible form for anyone from designers to press. Calendar Girl is an appreciation of the accomplishments of the beloved Ruth Finley but also a brief history of the American fashion industry from the mid-20th century. You do not need to be a fashionista to be impressed with all the accomplishments of Ruth Finley, who raised three sons as a single parent at the same time as being “the traffic controller of fashion” and who was also universally beloved for her encouragement of designers just getting started and all she did for her industry as a whole.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Calendar Girl

Director: Christian D. Bruun

Release Date: March 8. 2022

Running Time: 91 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriter: Documentary, Christian D. Bruun, Dan Hoffmann(story consultant), Natalie Nudell

Distribution Company: Syndicado

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

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Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).